Sunday, May 31, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 31: One in five U.S. schoolchildren are living below federal poverty line

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 31, 2015:
One in five U.S. schoolchildren are living below federal poverty line

Refer a friend/colleague to the PA Ed Policy Roundup and you could win a year's worth of my school board salary

Berks County IU June 23, 7:00 - 8:30 pm

"Some insiders are suggesting that, since they already have the votes, Republicans simply will pass a similar no-tax-hike plan to the ones crafted by Corbett, toss it on the new guy’s desk and see what happens.  Then Wolf will have a choice. He can blink, cave in on his budget plans, or draw a line in the sand, veto the spending plan and keep legislators in Harrisburg through the July 4th weekend while threatening to shut the government down.  Pennsylvania has needed this kind of showdown for years. It has an education spending formula that is seriously out of whack, and public pension plans that are bleeding red ink. It’s time for real solutions.  Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. But first buckle your seat belts. It’s likely going to be a bumpy ride."
Editorial: It’s show time in Harrisburg for a budget showdown
West Chester Daily Local News POSTED: 05/30/15, 6:22 PM EDT
On your mark …Get set … Go? Uh, maybe.
Do not pass go. Do not collect $30 billion. At least not if you’re one of those folks who toils in the Pennsylvania Capitol.  Welcome to the good old days in Harrisburg.  Tomorrow is June 1. Our new governor and legislators have exactly 30 days to reach an agreement on a budget plan.  Republicans who control the state House and Senate are probably suffering from a serious case of déjà vu. Excuse them if they seem a bit disoriented. Four years of Tom Corbett will do that.  Corbett was criticized for a lot of things – even by some in his own party. But one thing is indisputable. The guy knew how to deliver a budget. On time and without a tax increase.

 “...personalized education of every student, every day; and it is difficult to measure factors that we consider to be essential."
Lower Merion School Board passes resolution on standardized testing
Main Line Times By Richard Ilgenfritz @rpilgenfritz on Twitter Published: Friday, May 29, 2015
Lower Merion school officials at its board meeting last week approved a resolution addressing ongoing concerns over mandated standardized testing.  The resolution had also been discussed at legislative committee meetings and an education committee meeting in early May. Those meetings were prior to the board passing the resolution by a unanimous vote during the May business meeting.  According to Maureen O’Leary, chairwoman of the legislative committee, the board’s plan is to pass along the resolution to legislators and others who might be interested in the subject.  (Scroll down to read full resolution)

Storify for #FairFundingPA Chat with Terry Madonna - May 2015
PARSS May 27, 2015
Pennsylvania's major education leadership organizations meet on Twitter at 8 p.m. the last Tuesday of each month to discuss need for a school funding formula and other issues. Pollster @TerryMadonna joined us on Tuesday, May 26 to discuss legislature, budget, tax reform & basic education funding

Cost of business: Exploring public school legal fees in Pennsylvania
By Nick Malawskey |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 27, 2015 at 7:15 AM, updated May 27, 2015 at 11:14 AM
As part of PennLive's look at legal fees charged to the Harrisburg School District,we also delved into legal fees charged to public school districts and charter schools across the state.
We compiled the data from state State Department of Education reports on secondary education costs for a 10-year time span. What we found is that fees vary widely by district, often spiking when a settlement is reached in a civil case (the department includes settlements when calculating legal fees paid by a district).  We wanted to let you dig through the data.  Below you'll find an interactive that allows a user to look up legal fees from any district or charter school in the state and compare them to other districts.

One in five U.S. schoolchildren are living below federal poverty line
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton May 28 at 3:44 PM  
More than one out of every five school-age children in the U.S. were living below the federal poverty line in 2013, according to new federal statistics released Thursday. That amounted to 10.9 million children — or 21 percent of the total — a six percent increase in the childhood poverty rate since 2000.  Childhood poverty rates were on the rise for every racial group, ranging from 39 percent for African Americans and 36 percent for Native Americans, 32 percent for Hispanics and 13 percent for Asians and whites.  The data, part of an annual report to Congress from the U.S. Department of Education, offers a snapshot of the country’s education system, including information about preschool, higher education and private K-12 school enrollment.

"He is also co-chairman of the Basic Education Funding Commission, which has a June 10 deadline to recommend an objective formula to distribute discretionary state aid to schools."
Pa. Senator makes first public appearance after motorcycle crash
Penn Live By The Associated Press  updated May 29, 2015 at 4:25 PM
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A high-ranking Pennsylvania state senator from Allentown who is facing a drunken driving charge is back in public, four weeks after being injured in a motorcycle accident.  Sen. Pat Browne was at Saucon Valley Country Club on Thursday to attend a campaign fundraiser for him, the Morning Call of Allentown reports.  Browne, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, is expected to return to the Capitol next week before budget negotiations heat up.

Their View: A recipe for real pension reform
Centre Daily Times Letter BY JIM PAWELCZYK May 28, 2015 
Jim Pawelczyk lives in Ferguson Township and serves on the State College Area School District Board of School Directors. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the district or the board.
No sound bite explains or solves Pennsylvania’s pension crisis. Thankfully, Harrisburg’s perennial pension debates have taken on a more serious note. Perhaps sound policy decisions will trump the political posturing that has left the Pennsylvania School Employees’ Retirement System hamstrung. PSERS many problems are well-chronicled. They will impact public education and the economy for decades. What should the eventual reform package include? In my view, a complete solution needs to reflect the following realities:

"With the change, AGIS will go from students having a gym class every day to just twice in the eight-day cycle. The time period for lunch and recess together is also being limited to 45 minutes total rather than the current hour long session."
Avon Grove parents plead for PE
West Chester Daily Local By Marcella Peyre-Ferry, For 21st Century Media POSTED: 05/29/15, 6:59 AM EDT |
PENN >> Parents came out to board meetings and information sessions to object to the restructuring of the class schedules at the Avon Grove Intermediate School, but their input did not change the administration’s plan.  At the May 28 School Board meeting, the six to one vote of approval paved the way for the changes to take place in the fall, even though parent voices were opposed.  The proposal changes the AGIS schedule to focus on 90 minute educational blocks for language arts, math, social studies and science. Enrichment periods including art, music, and physical education are put into 45 minute blocks that change on an eight-day sliding schedule.

“This will mark the second consecutive year where we are attempting to reinvest in academic supports for our students and community. This district had cut over $8.3 million of supports over the last five years. We need to improve academically and we need to continue to work within the confines of our existing budget.
Upper Darby School Board whittles down tax increase
Delco Times By Linda Reilly, Times Correspondent POSTED: 05/30/15, 11:40 PM EDT 
UPPER DARBY >> The Upper Darby School District held a hearing on the proposed 2015-2016 budget Tuesday.  The 3.6 percent tax increase initially announced in February was reduced to 1.8 percent by the time the board approved the document in April.  “The 1.8 percent tax request represents the smallest tax increase in the last 14 years going back to the 2001-02 school year,” Business Manager Ed Smith said, speculating the low increase was the reason there were no objections, suggestions or comments at the hearing. “The bottom line is that there is a $1.1 million reduction from the preliminary budget to our proposed final expenditure budget.”  The $179.3 million budget, with the 1.8 percent tax increase, or 6.23 mills, calls for a total millage rate of 35.2 mills.  Homeowners in the communities of Clifton Heights, Millbourne and Upper Darby paying $3,459 this year for a home assessed at $100,000 will pay $3,521, an additional $62, if the proposed budget is adopted at theJune 9 meeting.

Lancaster City school district challenges signatures on Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School's petition
Hearing starts Monday on whether ABECS appeal can advance
Lancaster Online By TIM STUHLDREHER | Staff Writer Posted: May 31, 2015 5:50 am
Some of the signatures were collected by a convicted criminal, others reportedly by minors.
Some of the signers listed a homeless shelter as their address.  Several pages were temporarily lost, and an expert says multiple signatures are in the same handwriting.  The question: Should those irregularities, and others, invalidate the Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School’s petition to have an appeal heard by the State Charter School Appeals Board?  RELATED: A closer look at the petition  On Monday, a County Court hearing on that issue will begin. County Court Judge Joseph Madenspacher will preside.  The charter school, known as ABECS, wants the appeals board to reverse the School District of Lancaster’s rejection of its application to set up shop here.

"ERS looked at per-pupil spending in the district between 2011 and 2014, as well as what factors drove the decline. That involved comparing revenue for those years to changes in fixed costs, or costs the district has to pay by law. The report isolated three main fixed costs that have widened the gap created by a decrease in state funding over the past four years: pensions, health care and charter school payments."
Where does all of the Philly School District's money go?
Philadelphia public school classrooms received less money last year than in 2008, according to a study released this week by consulting group Education Resource Systems.   This study echoes what representatives from the district have been saying in community budget meetings and City Council hearings as they lobby for a funding increase of $300 million in recurring revenue.  "The main theme ... is our continued fixed cost increases," said district Chief Financial Officer Matt Stanksi. That, he said, is "why we keep coming back, year after year, asking for money." 

Dream act — what one Philly public school would do if Wolf has his way
What would you do with two and a half million dollars? Or, $2,447,020 to be exact.
That's how much money Northeast High School would get if the School District of Philadelphia gets all of the $265 million in additional resources proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf and Mayor Michael Nutter.  Not saying it will happen, but what if ....?  Both men face an uphill battle to get those numbers through the General Assembly and City Council respectively, but enough with the politicians for a minute.  WHYY/NewsWorks wanted to know what a public school might do with the additional dollars if they ever arrived, so we went to Northeast High.

At North Philly school, Wolf makes a pitch for more education funding
William H. Hunter Elementary School students were in the spotlight Friday as Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Mayor Michael Nutter visited the school in North Philadelphia. The children entertained the dignitaries with a spirited rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."  In between meeting and greeting the smiling kids, Wolf stressed the urgency of having his budget passed.  "The time is now," he said. "If we don't act now, it's going be too late. We've got to act now, we can't lose another child. This is a responsibility for all of Pennsylvania."  This is Wolf's fourth visit to a Philadelphia school as he promotes his budget plan, which calls for a tax on natural gas production to help increase education funding. His plan calls for $159 million in new basic-education funding for Philadelphia, as well as millions more to districts across the state.

Insider: 4 Things Jim Kenney Must Do To Fix Philly’s Schools
Saltz: Kenney should take on Harrisburg, instead of hiding under the table like current officials.
Philly Mag Citified BY ANDREW SALTZ  |  MAY 29, 2015 AT 1:44 PM
(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.) 
If you’re a parent in the School District of Philadelphia, you may have worried that officials would try to close your school. Or that your child wouldn’t have a nurse, would have to walk two miles just to get to school, or that their favorite teacher would strike.  But City Council has a different worry: Can your child read and write cursive?  At Council's hearings on school funding this week, cursive — not Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposal to plug the district's budget gap by raising property taxes  — dominated the debate.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum Joins GOP Race for White House
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Lauren Camera on May 28, 2015 8:40 AM
Add another candidate to the already bursting field of GOP presidential contenders: Rick Santorum, the highly conservative former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, launched his campaign late Wednesday afternoon.  Santorum, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 1995 and in the Senate from 1995 to 2007 and unsuccessfully vied for his party's presidential nomination last go-around, joined the growing ranks of Republican presidential hopefuls that are trouncing the Common Core State Standards.  "Our children, well, they deserve an education customized—customized!—to maximize their potential," Santorum said during his speech in Cabot, Pa., at Penn United Technologies, a metal manufacturing plant. "The first step in that process is joining me to drive a stake in the heart of common core."
But that's where his focus on education started and stopped.
So where does he stand on education issues?

The Education Assassins
New York Times by Frank Bruni MAY 30, 2015
A CONTEST for the least popular arm of the federal government would have many strong contenders.  There’s the soft, cuddly Internal Revenue Service. Also the National Security Agency, America’s Peeping Tom. And let’s not forget the Environmental Protection Agency, seen by many manufacturers as one big, mossy, bossy paean to regulation run amok.
But for politicians, in particular Republicans, another challenger comes into play: the Department of Education.  In a Republican presidential debate during the 2012 campaign, it wasn’t just on the list of “three agencies of government” that Rick Perry famously promised to eliminate. It was one of the two that he succeeded in naming before he stopped short, forgetting the third.
And it finds itself once again in Republican presidential candidates’ cross hairs, all the more so because of Common Core standards, supported by the education secretary, Arne Duncan, and cited by many excessively alarmed conservatives as a federal takeover of curriculum.

Connecticut Hedge Fund Managers Back Charter Schools, Democrats' Campaigns
Hartford Courant By Jenny Wilson May 29, 2015
HARTFORD — Several Wall Street billionaires who have invested heavily in the expansion of charter schools contributed more than $200,000 to Democrats in the 2013-14 election cycle, helping Gov. Dannel P. Malloy secure re-election.  The campaign contributors earned their fortunes as hedge fund managers and private equity investors before earning reputations as "education philanthropists." They have helped bankroll charter school movements throughout the country, spending to influence elections and to support advocacy movements.  Malloy opened this year's legislative session with a budget proposal that included $4.6 million in funding to open two new privatelymanaged charter schools, and an additional $17 million for new charter school seats in the next two years. Funding for local school districts would have remained flat.

Apply now for EPLC’s 2015-2016 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Applications are available now for the 2015-2016 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  With more than 400 graduates in its first sixteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, charter school leaders, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 17-18, 2015 and continues to graduation in June 2016.
Click here to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.

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Our goal is to ensure that every student has access to a quality education no matter where they live. To make that happen, we need to fundamentally change how public schools are funded. The current system is not fair to students or taxpayers and our campaign partners – more than 50 organizations from across Pennsylvania - agree that it has to be changed now. Student performance is stagnating. School districts are in crisis. Lawmakers have the ability to change this formula but they need to hear from you. You can make a difference »

Berks County IU June 23, 7:00 - 8:30 pm
Date:  Tuesday, June 23, 2015  Time:7:00 – 8:30 p.m. | Registration begins at 6:30 p.m.
Location: Berks County Intermediate Unit, 1111 Commons Boulevard, Reading, PA 19605
Local school district leaders will discuss how state funding issues are impacting our children’s education opportunities, our local taxes, and our communities. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn how you can support fair and adequate state funding for public schools in Berks County.  State lawmakers who represent Berks County have been invited to attend to learn about challenges facing area schools.

PILCOP: Adequately and Fairly Funding Pennsylvania Schools: What are the Needs and Where Does the Money Come From? (Live Webinar)
June 8, 2015, 12:00 — 2:00 P.M.
Staff attorney Michael Churchill will speak about what schools need and where the money comes from in this Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI) webinar on June 8. Click here to register.
Governor Wolf has proposed $500 million in new funding for public schools starting this July. He has proposed as shale extraction tax and increases in personal income and sales taxes to pay for this.  This Philadelphia Bar Association Education Law Section and PBI are hosting a webinar that will focus on how much public schools need and differing proposals on how state funds should be distributed this year and in the future. Other focuses will include the current local tax burdens for public schools and issues concerning how the state should raise revenues to pay for these programs.  The program will also provide information about the components of a good funding formula and look at the work of the Basic Education Funding Commission and the state-wide Campaign for Fair Education Funding, of which we are a leading member.

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